After an initially hot start to the season, the New York Knicks find themselves regressing back to their 2021-22 form and, currently, boast a losing record of 9-11 through their first 20 games played.
While there are many factors one can point to when it comes to the ball club’s stark decline, in a November 29 episode of Heavy Sports’ “Postin’ Up” Podcast with Keith Smith and Adam Taylor, Smith discussed the hard truth that Leon Rose and company’s actions from the summer of 2021 have gone on to have a major and, frankly, negative impact on the current state of the club.
“Two off-seasons ago when they picked up (Evan) Fournier and (Kemba) Walker… When you add those guys, what you always have to keep conscious of is ‘are we moving away from what made us special,'” Smith said.
“What made them special was they were a great defensive team, and they moved away from that in the attempt to improve the offense and if you don’t improve the offense by at least as much as you weakened the defense you’re not going to be very good.
“That’s the problem. That’s why they dipped back last year. That’s why this year they’re kind of just mulling around .500 because now what you’ve done is you’re not a great defensive team anymore but you’re still kind of only a middling offense.”
To Smith, New York’s 2021 offseason actions have a direct correlation with how they’ve found themselves fairing over the past two years, and, even with the fact that Walker now finds himself suiting up for the Dallas Mavericks and Fournier being cast out of the team’s regular rotation, the damage that came from said decisions has already been done.
Knicks Are Underwhelming on Both Ends
Historically, Tom Thibodeau-led teams have built up reputations of being tough-nosed, defensive-oriented units.
The 2022-23 iteration of the New York Knicks, however, has been anything but this, as they currently find themselves letting up the fifth-most points per game and rank in with the fifth-worst defensive rating in the entire league.
Now, on the opposite end, the club does find itself somewhat making up for these follies by putting up the 12th most points per contest with 114.6 a game but, as Smith would suggest in the podcast episode, they’ve done so in a wildly inefficient fashion.
“They take the tenth-most three-pointers per game in the league and they are dead last in three-point shooting,” Smith said. “So, cool, I guess, that you’re generating those looks but are the right guys taking them?”
Smith would continue by stating that RJ Barrett, Jalen Brunson, and Julius Randle are taking a combined 16 long-range shots a game this season and, of this bunch, Randle’s 33.1% conversion rate ranks as the best mark.
With this in mind, it’s truly no surprise that the Knicks currently find themselves sporting a middle-of-the-pack offensive rating of 111.9 and are two games under the .500 threshold.
Trade Idea to Boost Knicks Offense
A way to address Smith’s concerns about the Knicks could simply be for the front office to look into making some shakeups to their talent pool with some in-season trades, and Fastbreak’s Ben Stinar believes that Miami Heat wing Duncan Robinson could be a player for the franchise to target.
“Miami seems like they are open to dealing Robinson for the right price and being an elite-level three-point shooter, he should absolutely be a player the Knicks keep an eye on,” Stinar wrote.
A career 40.1% three-point shooter, Stinar would go on to argue that his addition to the Knicks’ rotation could help boost their shot-making abilities, particularly from distance.
However, as stated in a November 27 reaction piece on the trade concept, outside of his impressive shooting stroke, the 28-year-old is an incredibly limited contributor in virtually every other aspect of the game, particularly on the defensive end where he boasts a 113 defensive rating through five seasons in Miami.
Add this to the fact that he’s owed $74.3 million through 2026, and it’s hard to believe that the Knicks would even be remotely interested in pursuing Robinson.